Education to improve the triage of mental health patients in general hospital emergency departments

Accid Emerg Nurs. 2006 Oct;14(4):210-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aaen.2006.08.005. Epub 2006 Oct 25.


General hospital emergency departments (EDs) are obvious places for individuals in distress or in a mental health crisis to seek assistance. However, triage nurses admit to a lack of expertise and confidence in psychiatric assessment which can result in less accurate assessments than for medical or trauma presentations. The objectives of a collaborative project between an Adult Mental Health Program and an Adult Emergency Program in a Canadian regional health authority were to: provide education and training to triage nurses regarding mental health and illness; monitor the transit of mental health patients through the ED; monitor wait times; and determine the adequacy of the Canadian Triage Acuity and Assessment Scale in the triage of psychiatric presentations. Although the percentages of patients triaged as "emergent" did not change as a result of the education, the percentage of patients who were triaged as "not urgent" but required hospitalization was significantly reduced. Although average lengths of stay in the ED were also reduced after the education, this may or may not have been related to the educational sessions. The project was successful in increasing collaboration between the two departments and has resulted in enhanced, on-going mental health education for ED nurses.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Nursing / education*
  • Emergency Services, Psychiatric / standards
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Interinstitutional Relations
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Manitoba
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Nursing Education Research
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards
  • Program Evaluation
  • Regional Medical Programs
  • Self Efficacy
  • Time Factors
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration
  • Triage / standards*